Video: Lye Yuk Sing
It’s been a long time since Hong Kong-based singer Karen Mok last set foot on our shores. In town to promote her latest album Departures, the 44-year-old also attended Star Awards 2015 Show 2 as guest presenter last Sunday.
At a press conference yesterday, Karen spoke freely about the inspiration for her first Mandarin album in four years. The theme of Departures, which centres on “saying goodbye and being reunited again”, perfectly describes the songstress’ relationship with her German-born husband Johannes Natterer.
The couple met each other at the age of 17 when they were studying in Italy, and dated for a year before going separate ways. It wasn’t until the actress was filming a movie in Berlin in 2003 that their paths crossed again. Four years ago, the lovebirds tied the knot in the city which first brought them together.
Speaking on “departures”, the multi-hyphenate reckoned that the biggest change in her life would be bidding farewell to singlehood. “It used to be just about me, me and me. I didn’t have to ask for opinions or discuss with anyone about my work schedule. Now that I have a new status as a wife, my perspectives have shifted,” added Karen.
Photos: Karen Mok's official Facebook
Karen also recalled a challenging period when the contract with her previous record label ended in 2007. It was a time where the market was on decline and the award-winning singer had feared that L!VE is... KAREN MOK would be her very last album. “But I can’t stop making music just because CDs don’t sell as well anymore. Everyone needs music in their lives,” she asserted.
And the hardest goodbye she has had to say was to her father who passed away from a heart attack last January. Through the episode, Karen learned to accept that one could change the way to love another person whether the latter is physically around or otherwise. The songbird also revealed that the songs in Departures poignantly expressed her emotions, which helped ease her pain.
After losing her dad, Karen decided to stay with her mother whenever she visits Hong Kong. “The very little time that I have [in Hong Kong], I should spend it with my mum as much as I can,” she said. “She was happy to have me around. Now she treats me like a teenager, asking stuff like ‘What time do you want to wake up tomorrow? Should I cut you a papaya for breakfast?’ It is actually very cute and I let her [fuss over me] because I think she loves it.”
Distance keeps the romantic spark alive
“Absence makes the heart fonder” rings true for Karen and Johannes, who is based in London.
With their careers being an important part of their lives, the couple tries their best to fulfill their respective dreams while matching their schedules with each other’s. “Even if he relocates to Hong Kong, my job would still require me to fly frequently. That wouldn’t work,” Karen reiterated.
The loving pair also has a consensus to focus on their work when they are apart and to only have eyes on each other when they reunite.
In Karen’s words, the key to maintaining a long-distance marriage is to have trust and confidence not only in each other, but also in the relationship. In fact, having a LDR keeps the warm glow of freshness and excitement alive as it reminds them not to take things for granted.
“It’s a good thing that we have known each other for a long, long time,” she said with a smile.
When asked if Johannes does anything special during their reunions, Karen unabashedly replied: “We are just happy to see each other. Simple stuff like cooking. Well, he does the cooking and I eat. We’ll have a good bottle of wine. Being together is what really counts.”
Although her husband is said to be a “practical and down-to-earth” man (which is what Karen likes about him), the singer is always greeted by a house filled with flowers each time she returns to their London home.
Despite keeping in touch via FaceTime every day, the longest the couple could stand being away from each other is two months. And this is probably why Karen is dreading her busy schedule ahead.
During the press conference, Karen let on that her brand new concert tour is in the works and that it is slated to kick off in Taiwan this September. The songbird will be bringing the show to various cities in Asia, which she hopes would include Singapore.
“He has already applied to be the chef. But I’m not sure if we have the budget to hire a private chef for the tour,” she chuckled, while emphasising that the LDR is only a short-term arrangement. “Five years later, we’ll probably buy a vineyard, become farmers, grow grapes and make wine.”
Karen and Johannes’ Around the World in 80 Days
Last October, Karen and Johannes went on a three-month holiday to eight countries including South America and New Zealand. “Since we spend so little time with each other, we might as well go on a long vacation together,” the singer remarked.
Conflicts are inevitable between travel partners, especially when it was the first time that Karen and Johannes were in each other’s company every minute of the day for three months.
Calling herself “the one who is more hot-tempered”, Karen sang praises of Johannes for giving in to her and calming her down when she gets agitated. The songstress also added that they are mature enough to talk things out when opinions differ, instead of breaking into argument. “It was really sweet and lovey-dovey throughout the trip,” she giggled.
A fan of the wildlife, Karen managed to experience close encounters with nature and animals during her adventures to the Amazon rainforest, as well as the endangered yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand.
Absorbed in the picturesque sceneries, the couple took almost 10,000 photos during their travels. 200 of them have since been exhibited in Taiwan and Beijing.
During Chinese New Year in February, the venturesome pair headed to Iceland to chase after the famed Northern Lights. “I have been pestering my husband to bring me there since it’s just a few hours' plane ride from the UK. It was a tick off my bucket list,” Karen laughed.
Karen Mok's latest album Departures is available at all good record stores.